Aylesbury Fire Station is part of a national network of 20 Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) bases for the people, vehicles and equipment needed in the aftermath of major incidents such as collapsed buildings, major transportation incidents, natural disasters and terrorist activity.
The USAR programme was established following the 9/11 attack on New York in 2001, which marked a turning point in the challenge posed by international terrorism.
USAR training and equipment, coupled with the knowledge, experience, skills and dedication of all our USAR-trained staff, significantly strengthens our robust emergency response provision. As well as being able to cope with a range of unexpected disruptive events, the firefighters who make up our USAR team regularly work alongside other firefighters to enhance public safety at incidents in and beyond Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes.
These include road traffic collisions involving large goods vehicles, farm fires, incidents which leave buildings unstable . . . and occasionally calls like this one:
On Saturday 26 September, members of Aylesbury Fire Station’s USAR crew were mobilised to a dog rescue in Fleet, Hampshire. Ernie, a 14-year-old Jack Russell Terrier, had been seen running into a 10-inch soakaway pipe over 24 hours earlier.
The RSPCA were initially contacted, but by the following morning Ernie had not emerged and the recommendation from the RSPCA was that the fire and rescue service should be called.
A USAR advisor from Hampshire Fire & Rescue Service was mobilised and, following an assessment, contact was made with Thames Valley Fire Control Service.
Five of the duty USAR technicians from Aylesbury Red Watch were mobilised to the incident, taking with them technical search equipment and tools for excavating earth to access the pipe.
Watch Commander Matty Burn, Crew Commander Jamie Ewers and Firefighters Milly Bowler, Chris Callum and David Otter, utilised Delsar listening equipment – of the type used for identifying locations of casualties following building collapse or earthquakes – to pinpoint Ernie’s exact location in the 100m pipe. They also used technical search cameras to assess the pipe’s internal structure.
Utilising the technical search skills which form a core part of the USAR technician role – and after a lot of digging – the USAR crews located a tired and hungry Ernie and reunited him with his grateful owner.
Station Commander Kevin Mercer from Aylesbury Fire Station said: “Fortunately building collapses and natural disasters are rare occurrences, but it is important that our crews train regularly and are always ready to respond.
“Earlier this month, our USAR crews and colleagues from other parts of the country took part in a major multi-agency exercise just outside Aylesbury at which many of the skills which were required on Saturday were put to the test.
“At incidents like this one, it is always in the back of our mind that well-meaning rescue attempts by members of the public could turn a search for a missing dog into something potentially much more serious.
“I was very pleased with the way the crew’s painstaking training paid off, and delighted that there was a happy ending.”